Footages of an ultra-hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander exercising in a fitness club in Canada sparked anger among Iranians, who highlighted his role in the brutal crackdown on students and widespread arrest of women for not wearing the hijab.

Last week, a short video and several photos went viral on Farsi social media showing Brigadier General Morteza Talaei in a mixed gym. Abdollah Abdi, an independent Iranian journalist who first published the video, said that the video was recorded in Greater Toronto’s Richmond Hill.

In an interview with Abdi, Talaei confirmed his travels to Canada but criticised him for “unethically” publishing a video of him in a public place.

Talaei’s criticism caused outrage among Iranians, who took to social media to remind him of when he organised a branch of the police to arrest women for not following what police defined as “appropriate hijab”.

“Former Tehran police chief said ‘people’s private life is no other people’s business’; it is of extreme obscenity to hear this from someone who had arrested thousands of women and men because of their ‘private life’,” an Iranian social media user wrote on Twitter.

Others criticised the Canadian government for granting a visa to an IRGC commander, one of the leading figures of the 1999 attack on university students’ dormitories and the student movement crackdown in 2003.

“The limitless obscenity of Talaei and people alike him is out of the question. The question is how these criminals can travel to the free world. Canada has turned into the backyard of the Islamic Republic’ criminals,” wrote another Twitter user.

Before being appointed to the police force, Talei was the commander of IRGC in the Iranian cities of Khonsar, Barkhar, Mimeh and Kashan. He was also the commander of the paramilitary Basij forces in Isfahan’s third district.

In 2005, after 28 years of service in the IRGC, he entered politics and joined the conservative parties in Iran.
Hardliners urge higher uranium enrichment

In a letter to the country’s supreme leader, an influential Iranian conservative diplomat suggested that the only way to remove international sanctions against Iran is to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and increase uranium enrichment to 90 percent, the Shargh daily reported.

Saeed Jalili – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in Iran’s Supreme National Security Council – opposed, in an undisclosed letter, policies to return to the nuclear deal drafted by Iran’s negotiating team during Vienna talks.

An unnamed source told the Shargh daily that Jalili wrote to Iran’s supreme leader after failing to convince the negotiating team to leave the Vienna talks, where Iran and the United States are negotiating a renewal of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“In this letter, he has clearly opposed the strategies that Iran’s negotiating team has assumed in Vienna talks, adding that Iran must withdraw from the JCPOA,” the source said.

According to this source, Jalili believed that if Iran withdrew from the nuclear deal, the UN Security Council would not be able to impose new sanctions on Tehran due to China and Russia’s veto power in the council.

“Jalili’s second advice was to increase uranium enrichment up to 90 percent, and then begin direct talks with the US to remove the sanctions,” the source told the Shargh daily.

Following the 2015 accord, Iran reduced its uranium enrichment level to less than 4 percent. Despite Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the agreement and the reimposition of harsh sanctions in 2018, Tehran stayed in full compliance with the deal until 2020.

In January 2020, Iran began enriching uranium up to 20 percent, and after attacks on its nuclear sites, Tehran increased the level of uranium enrichment to 60 percent.

‘MBS is today’s Saddam Hussein’

General Hossein Kanani Moghadam, a former high-ranking commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), compared Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

“Bin Salman is the second Saddam, and the anti-Iran policies he has deployed are the same policy [that Saddam followed],” Kanani Moghadam told the Aftab daily, referring to Iraq’s attack on Iran in 1980 that led to an eight-year full-scale war.

Kanani Moghadam, who is also the founder of the Green Party and has close ties with the establishment, suggested that the ongoing negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are “only ceremonial”.

“These negotiations might solve issues such as the reopening of the embassies, but it is doubtful that Iran and Saudi Arabia will normalise ties while the Yemen crisis continues,” he added.

According to him, it would be “naive” to think Iran and Saudi Arabia would have close relations in the future.

Between April and September 2021, Tehran and Riyadh have held four rounds of direct talks in Baghdad to restore ties.

In January, Iranian officials said that the two countries were ready to reopen embassies after a break of six years in political ties.
Officials indifferent about Omicron

Health Minister Bahram Eynollahi wrote on Twitter on 27 January that Iran had “actually entered the sixth peak of the pandemic”, however, the authorities have not yet taken action to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the country.

Despite the repeated demands by health experts to impose a two-week quarantine in cities with a high rate of daily infections, Iran’s national task force on coronavirus has not imposed any restrictions in the pandemic’s worst-hit country in the Middle East.

The lack of measures to prevent a new wave in Iran was reflected in the country’s parliament, as the ISNA news agency reported that “at least 45 legislators” were infected with the coronavirus on Monday.

The parliament postponed its sittings on Wednesday and Thursday to control the further spread of the coronavirus in the country’s legislative body.

Meanwhile, the number of daily reported virus cases has been on a sharp rise since mid-January. On Wednesday, health officials said 38,160 were infected, and 59 died because of Covid-19.

According to official figures, the total number of Covid deaths in Iran is over 132,500.

But the Etemad daily doubted the numbers announced by officials, saying that health centres did not test patients with cold-like symptoms.

“Some patients infected with Omicron, when were examined at health centres, received prescriptions for a common cold, and their sickness was registered as a cold,” the daily wrote.

Since the pandemic’s beginning, Iranian officials have been accused of underreporting Covid-19 deaths.

Source » middleeasteye